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80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days

80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days

Thirteen of the original Charter members of the 123rd Observation Squadron stayed with the unit through the war with its various redesignations. Here, ten of them gather for a group picture at the squadron’s headquarters at Chanyi Air Base, China. The squadron operated the high-performance Lockheed F-5E Photo Lightning reconnaissance aircraft at Chanyi and several other detached locations, covering imagery targets in the vastness of southern China and Southeast Asia from Burma to Thailand to (then) French Indochina. From left to right, they are(kneeling) First Sergeant John Flavin, S/Sgt John Buckner, M/Sgt Kenneth Miller and M/Sgt Jack Shaylor. Standing from left to right are S/Sgt Harry Bachman, M/Sgt Roy Wolford, T/Sgt Charles Estes, Capt Harvey Lounsbury, S/Sgt Lorne Restau and S/Sgt Cyrus Dolph. Note some of the men standing sport the distinctive Redhawk emblem of the 35th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, a version of which is the emblem today for the 123rd Fighter Squadron and which we can trace back to the unit’s service overseas in 1944. (142nd Wing History Archive)

80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days

A number of 142nd Fighter Group personnel deployed to Ramstein Air Base, West Germany, in Operation Creek Klaxon. There they maintained and operated the McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II in a rainbow deployment with several other ANG units, forming ANG US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) Detachment 11 (ANG USAFE (Det 11)). Det 11 operated the F-4D for Zulu Alert operations as Ramstein’s active duty 526th Tactical Fighter Squadron (the Black Knights) of USAFE’s 86th Tactical Fighter Wing converted from the F-4E to the General Dynamics F-16C Viper. Oregonians helped maintain and operate two to four F-4D on continuous air defense alert operations at Ramstein, ready to scramble 24/7 for about a year in the twilight of the Cold War during Ramstein’s conversion to the F-16. Here, Oregon ANG members at Ramstein gather together for Thanksgiving dinner, 1986. (Courtesy of Ms. Gea Clausier)

80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days

142nd Fighter Group deployed personnel gather around a McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle during their deployment to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in 1998 for Operation Northern Watch, the Iraqi Northern No-Fly Zone patrol operation. The Wing rotated three groups of Oregon Air Guardsmen, nearly 300 wing members and six 123rd Fighter Squadron F-15A Multi-Stage Improvement Program (MSIP) Eagle fighters, for duty at Incirlik during the six-week deployment period. (142nd Wing History Archive)

80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days

First Lieutenant Faith L. Hunsdon, a flight nurse, was the first woman to join the Oregon Air National Guard in March, 1958, coming to the 142nd Fighter Group from active duty service. She’s pictured here with Major Dave “Doc” Stoddard. She served as a flight nurse in the 142nd Infirmary for 12 years, then with the Veterans Administration hospital in Portland. (142nd Wing History Archive)

80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days

Then Colonel Garry C. Dean became the first American of African descent to command the 142nd Fighter Wing in January, 2001. He later became the Oregon ANG Commander, was promoted to major general in 2008, and served as the First Air Force Commander before being assigned to duty in Europe with a NATO HQ and then as Special Assistant to the Chief, National Guard Bureau before he retired in 2015 after a distinguished 37-year career on active duty and in the ANG. People from all backgrounds proudly serve our community, state and nation in the 142nd Wing and Oregon Air National Guard, going on 80 years now and counting! (142nd Wing History Archive)

80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days

Aircrew (pilots and Weapon System Operators) of the 123rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron gather around a McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II at Portland ANG Base for a squadron picture in 1989, late in the Cold War era and not long before the 1990 conversion to the McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle. The senior ranking member in the picture is Oregon ANG Commander Major General Charles A. Sams stands front and center in jacket and tie with some 50 aircrew members of the Redhawk squadron. (142nd Wing History Archive)

80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days

Members of the 142nd Fighter Group’s winning team at the 1976 William Tell Worldwide Weapons Meet gather for a group photo in early November 1976. The team won the F-101 category and one of the Oregon aircrews, pilot Maj Bradford A. Newell and Lt Col Donald R. Tonole, earned the Top Gun title in the category. Of note, one of the team members that year was Canadian Forces Corporal Al Currie, seen second to last from left to right in the second row. (142nd Wing History Archive)

80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days

Members of the 142nd Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (142nd CAMS) gather for a squadron picture on the parking ramp at Portland Air National Guard Base with a pair of Deuces, the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger fighter-interceptors which the unit operated between 1966 and 1971. (142nd Wing History Archive)

80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days

Several 142nd Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (142nd CAMS) maintainers pause for a picture on the ramp next to a Northrop F-89 Scorpion in this picture circa March, 1964, perhaps over a drill weekend, when all members would have been present for duty. In the first-row kneeling, from left to right are MSgt Reub Vermilyea, SSgt Denny Cox and flight chief MSgt Bod Edgerton. In the back row standing left to right are A1C Ron Edwards and SSgt Ben Jacks (Courtesy Ron Edwards). The 142nd Fighter Group flew three variants of the F-89, the D, H and J, from 1957 to 1966. (142nd Wing History Archive)

80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days
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Nine 123rd Fighter Squadron fighter pilots flew combat with active duty units during the Korean War. The men were selected on the basis of their previous experience, whether they had flown combat in World War II or not, though two of the nine who had volunteered to fly combat again. Here one of the pilots, First Lieutenant Ernest P. Wakehouse, is shown after completion of his tour flying 100 combat missions in the North American F-51D Mustang in a three-month period between September 12 and December 16, 1951. (142nd Wing History Archive)

80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days
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The 371st Fighter Group had to contend with flood waters at Dole Airfield (ALG Y-7) on Armistice Day, 1944. Members of the unit contend with rising flood waters from the River Doubs. The original caption for this photo read “In angry retaliation (perhaps for dumping unexpended ordnance in it after P-47’s returned from some combat missions) . . . the Doubs River went completely berserk . . .” It is perhaps ironic that the unit, redesignated 142nd Fighter Group in May, 1946, has had to contend with river flood waters in the great flood of 1948 at Portland Air Base, and again when river flood waters threatened in 1996. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days
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Ms. Katie Bins of the American Red Cross detachment serving with the 371st Fighter Group in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) gives the first “sinker” made in the unit on the Continent to the group’s Commander, Colonel Bingham T. “Bing” Kleine, at Advanced Landing Ground A-6, Beuzzeville (aka La Londe or Sainte-Mère-Église) Airfield, France, in the summer of 1944. The American Red Cross established a detachment and an Aero Club that stayed with the unit all the way through its combat service in the ETO, 1944-1945. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

80 Years of Oregon Air National Guard Veterans and Veterans Days
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Officers and men of Oregon’s first military aviation unit, the 123rd Observation Squadron, gather at Portland’s first commercial airport, Swan Island Municipal Airport, for a squadron picture after the unit was activated for federal duty on 15 September 1941. At the time, the unit had but two aircraft, a Douglas O-46A observation aircraft (left) nicknamed “Old Awful” and a North American BC-1A basic combat trainer. Soon after, the men and aircraft moved to their duty station up at Gray Field, Fort Lewis, Washington State and transitioned to the North American O-47 observation aircraft which they operated into 1943. (142nd Wing History Archive)

PORTLAND, Ore. --

This Veteran’s Day, 2021 marks the 80th anniversary of the Oregon Air National Guard being in the ranks of veterans whom we celebrate on November 11 each year.  We honor our veterans and their service in defense of our nation, state and community, in peace and in war. 

Our veterans served the public in “popular” wars (World War II is called by some as the “Good War”), in neglected or indifferent conflicts such as the relatively short, sharp action in Korea, and the long desert wars in SW Asia of the last 30 years, and also in deeply “unpopular” wars, such as in Vietnam.  Regardless of the nature of the conflict or the ultimate outcome, good, bad or ugly, our veterans proudly served our country.  Veterans don’t always choose the war in which they serve, but, especially since the end of the draft in 1973, they all chose to serve.

In November, 1941, the United States was at peace, despite the Second World War raging in Europe and Asia.  Oregon’s first military aviation unit, the 123rd Observation Squadron, was activated and put into federal service on September 15, 1941, and moved up to Gray Field by Fort Lewis, Washington for operations.  The 100+ charter members of the squadron under the unit’s first commander, Major G. Robert Dodson, commemorated Armistice Day, 1941 there at Gray Field.  Little did these pioneering Oregon Airmen know how their organization would develop and evolve over the next 80 years, and that thousands and thousands of men and women would become veterans in Oregon ANG service!

And so, the squadron, redesignated as the 35th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron in 1943, spent Armistice Days 1941, 1942 and 1943 in the US.  In 1944 the squadron commemorated the day in China while operating the high-performance Lockheed F-5E Lightning photo reconnaissance aircraft.  Then, in 1945 it was back in the US as the squadron inactivated on November 7, 1945.  The Redhawks had sailed and flown around the globe in their World War II service to the nation and were proud veterans of the first generation.

In May, 1946, the squadron was reactivated and returned to service in the Oregon National Guard.  There it was joined by another major organization, the 371st Fighter Group, a World War II Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bomber unit that flew and fought in the European Theater of Operations.  The group spent its first Armistice Day in 1943 in the US, then was in Europe 1944, where some unit members spent the day as prisoners of war (POWs).

The 371st Fighter Group’s unit history for November, 1944, recalled that on 10 November, the River Doubs flooded Dole Airfield (Advanced Landing Ground Y-7), France, and all the P-47 planes had to fly out to Dijon Airfield (ALG Y-9), with the heavy equipment necessarily moved from the flightline up to higher ground.  The entry for November 11 was as follows: “ARMISTICE, but hardly the cause for elation as in 1918.  We were informed we would conduct operations from Dijon and not be off ops until our return to Dole as previous orders had indicated.  Weather too bad for flying.  Birthday party and steak dinner held for Colonel Kleine (born 10 November 1912) at Group officers BOQ.”  

In The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO, the groups “warbook” published after the war, there’s a humorous description of that Armistice Day, 1944:  “The Fire Fighters augered in when their personnel carrier slipped off the taxi-way into the deeper water and mud, and they abandoned their truck like bugs leaving a burning mattress, holding their messkits high above their heads.”

Of note, although the 371st Fighter Group was an all-male operation, there were several American Red Cross women who were attached to the group during its time in the ETO, women such as Katie Binns, Nancy Heffelfinger, Nancy Orr and Barbara Wright.  Although these women were not in the military, they served our country as well and endured the same living conditions and potential threat to home base as did the men in uniform.

In addition to the women of the Red Cross, there was a young French woman with the unit in 1944, Mademoiselle (MLLE) Yvette Hamel, a French farm girl who was seriously wounded by German artillery in the fighting for Normandy, whom the unit unofficially adopted in order to help her convalescence from her serious wounds.  MLLE Hamel spent Armistice Day, 1944 with the unit.

https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/864399/the-french-farm-girl-of-the-flying-field-yvette-hamel-and-the-371st-fighter-gro/

And like the 123rd, the 371st came back in the States for inactivation on November 10, 1945.  The group was redesignated as the 142nd Fighter Group on May 24, 1946 and allotted to Oregon in the post-war buildup of the aviation component of the National Guard, reflecting the painful lessons learned by the country in the costly readiness experience of early World War II.

This improved reserve readiness capability was soon put to the test in the Korean War.  Oregon’s Air Guardsmen serving then spent Armistice Day, 1951 and for some 1952 also, in wartime service far and wide around the world.  Oregon pilots deployed to Korea for combat in the North American F-51 Mustang with active duty units in 1951; one of them, 1st Lt. Orval Tandy, spent Armistice Days 1951 and 1952 in north Korea as a POW. 

Back in the US, the organization was parsed out like a Thanksgiving turkey, with elements serving in Portland (123rd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron), at O’Hare International Airport in Illinois (142nd Fighter Group), on the Alaskan coast of the Bering Sea (142nd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron) with many other individual members joining active duty units from Europe to Asia and points in between. 

https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/438253/they-waived-everything-but-goodbye-oregon-air-national-guard-in-the-korean-war/

In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day to reflect honors rendered to all veterans of all American Wars, and not just the commemoration of the Great War/World War I from which the day started.  That year also reflected a change for the Oregon Air National Guard as the unit transitioned from a day fighter role with the North American F-86A Sabre to the night/all-weather air defense interceptor mission in the Lockheed F-94B. 

With this aircraft change came a change to the mission as part of the Air/Aerospace Defense Command (ADC), an association which lasted into the late Cold War period in 1980 some 25 years later, operating such aircraft as the Northrop F-89 Scorpion, Convair F-102 Delta Dagger and McDonnell F-101B Voodoo.  Tactical Air Command took over the air defense mission in 1980, and then in 1992, Air Combat Command, which continues today.

In 1958, the first woman joined the Oregon ANG, Captain Faith Hunsdon, a flight nurse and Korean War era veteran who came to the ANG from active duty.  She served 12 years in the OreANG and then worked at the Veterans Hospital in Portland for another 28 years, retiring in 1985.  Women have been an integral part of the unit, veterans of service continuously since then.

During the Vietnam War some Oregon ANG pilots served on active duty flying the F-102 Delta Dagger in Europe and in SE Asia as part of the Palace Alert program, like William B. McDonald.  And we should note, in addition to the home-grown Guardsmen of the unit, since 1946 the Oregon Air National Guard has been leavened with veterans coming off active duty to continue service in the reserve component.  Many who served in wartime roles around the world in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and other conflicts later joined the Oregon ANG.  So, the Veterans Day heritage of personnel in the unit is quite rich and diverse in experience.

https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/864347/remembering-the-oreangs-vietnam-veterans/

Future Veterans Days found the men and women of the Oregon Air National Guard at home station, ensuring the 24/7 air defense alert mission which continues today.  In 1973, the draft ended, and the all-volunteer force era began.  But starting in the 1980s and especially after the end of the Cold War, various Oregon ANG units and personnel deployed overseas where they served on other Veterans Days. 

The 142nd Fighter Group expanded into the air superiority mission in the McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II in the 1980s.  It deployed air and ground crews in 1986 to West Germany to operate the F-4D Phantom II on Zulu Alert as part of the Creek Klaxon air defense alert deployment to Ramstein Air Base, 42 years after that first soggy Armistice Day of the 371st Fighter Group in Europe in 1944.

Since the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15 Eagle era began in 1989, the 142nd deployed in counter-drug alert ops in Panama, to North Atlantic Treaty Organization duty in Iceland, to SW Asia in 1998 and 2000 for Iraqi No Fly Zone patrols, north and south.  And then the unit was engaged in the response to 9/11, on the day from home station, as well as deployed to other locations in the US.  And again, in the years since, to SW Asia as Operation Enduring Freedom and/or Iraqi Freedom at various locations with non-F-15 units ranging from special ops (combat controllers, combat weather, pararescue) to security forces, medical, communications, civil engineers, transportation, service/force support, etc.

In 2016, National Guard members gained official status as veterans in 2016 with the passage of “The Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act,” providing opportunity for Guardsmen to earn veteran status in the eyes of the law. Principally, this applies to those called to active duty either under Title 10 (by the president) or under Title 32 (by the state governor) of the U.S. Code, or who qualify for retirement benefits with at least 20 years of service.

On this Veterans Day, it appears most of the Oregon ANG’s personnel will be at home, but always ready 24/7 with aerospace control alert should the nation need.  Some members will be in a deployed status for Covid-19 response support but hopefully not too far from home.

So, reflecting back on 80 years of Oregon ANG veterans who answered the call to duty and served our country in times of war, we can be proud of their contributions to the security of our land.  If you have the opportunity to do so, thank a veteran for their service to our nation, state and community and the preservation of the freedoms and liberties which we still enjoy today. 

And honor the families of our veterans as well, as November is National Veterans and Military Families Month.  Military families made great sacrifices and provided heartfelt support to their loved ones in uniform, as do the military families of those currently serving, which we should honor and not take for granted.  The 142nd Wing recognized that on November 8, 2020 when it established the Airman and Family Readiness Center, which this writer, a veteran of 24 years, has also been able to seek assistance and help from: 

https://www.defense.gov/News/Feature-Stories/Story/Article/2425674/air-guard-wing-opens-airman-family-readiness-center/